Manufacturers, Take Your Star Turn

Manufacturers, Take Your Star Turn

It’s June 10, 2011. It’s been more than a year since the cap and trade legislation that narrowly passed the U.S. Congress was signed into law by President Obama; in December 2009 the U.N. Climate Conference in Copenhagen finally united the world’s economies—including the U.S., China, and India—around a real and meaningful plan to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions; the “green building movement” is all but indistinguishable from the construction industry in general (it’s 2011, is there any kind

of building design on the books other than green?); and all this change is having an impact on how we view energy consumption and how we plan for future consumption.

In our little piece of the universe, pro AV consultants, integrators, and manufacturers are seeing more RFPs that require Energy Star equipment for all products covered under the Energy Star V2.0 Audio/Video Specification released in late 2009. Because this new Energy Star specification covers all AV equipment, not just consumer TVs and related peripherals, and since AV doesn’t really have a home in LEED, nearly all institutional buyers—as well as many corporate buyers—have a simple, one-sentence way to address energy consumption of low-voltage technologies such as AV: All electronic equipment installed for this project shall meet or exceed the latest Energy Star specifications. Bang. Done.

AV designers are doing their best to argue the merits of professional AV equipment, almost none of which has an Energy Star designation since the pro AV industry did little to address Energy Star 2.0 when it had the chance in 2009. We argue that bi-directional communication ports, remote monitoring capability, and 24/7-rated construction ought to override the benefits of low power consumption offered by the residential AV products that dominate the Energy Star 2.0 landscape. However, our customers tire of having to make exemption after exemption for us when every other industry seems to have gotten the memo.

Increasingly, AV consultants and integrators tell pro AV manufacturers that our hands are tied. We must specify more consumer gear because it carries the Energy Star label required by the terms of our contracts. On the eve of InfoComm 2011, pro AV manufacturers are noticing a sizable dip in sales (or a lack of a rebound while the rest of the economy stabilizes) as they try to play catch up to this whole Energy Star thing.

It’s June 10, 2011. Cap and trade has passed; Copenhagen was a big success. Virtually all new buildings are green, and calls for compliance with LEED and Energy Star are everywhere.

In our little piece of the universe, pro AV manufacturers are competing to make their products more intelligent and more energy efficient. The pro AV industry’s deep involvement in working with the EPA to craft Energy Star V2.0 for audio/video equipment was a chore, but it resulted in a specification that supports the EPA’s mission while also appreciating the unique requirements of the pro AV industry. And much like the RoHS initiatives of the early ‘00s, this Energy Star transformation has been a lot of work for manufacturers, but those who invested early are thriving.

AV designers are seeing more RFPs that require the use of Energy Star compliant equipment, but thankfully an increasing number of suitable pro AV products are available, and on the eve of InfoComm 2011, competition in the pro AV market segment centers around who can provide systems that are simple, reliable, digital, and energy efficient. Sustainable capitalism is the dominant conversation in the business press, and our industry is not immune to those currents.

OK, some of you are saying, “Give me a break. Neither of those scenarios will play out that way.” Perhaps. There is a third possible scenario where a few Blue Dog Democrats in the Senate will align with a unified Republican opposition to stall cap and trade until we’re fully out of the woods economically. Copenhagen could be a bust. And, though the EPA will publish a new Energy Star specification for audio/video equipment this year, it will be largely ignored by pro AV buyers. Life will go on much as it has these many ages in the shire.

But here’s the deal: If you’re the CEO of a pro AV manufacturer, how much Russian roulette are you comfortable playing with your company’s future? Do you want to go all-in on the third option above when the world is so clearly bending toward Alternate Future No. 1? Don’t you want to be the visionary leader who saw this trend and transformed your company to meet the demands of the new sustainability economy?

Well, now (and I mean right now!) is your chance. In late 2008 the EPA started working on the Energy Star V2.0 specification for AV equipment. While the consumer electronics industry— which has been working with the EPA since the late ’90s—was in sync with this new spec, the pro AV industry was largely out of the loop until March of this year. The EPA has deadlines to meet, voluminous data to gather and is eagerly seeking our input. If you’re the CEO of an AV manufacturer, put someone on this right now. Go to audio_video_spec and find out how to get involved. The InfoComm Green AV Task Force is doing all it can to gather information and communicate with the EPA about the special needs of the pro AV market segment, but we need your participation.

Energy Star V2.0 is a good thing that, if we step up, could be a great thing. If we don’t, it could be a nightmare.